Local History
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DeMotte, Indiana History 1997

30 Years of Growth
100 Years of Tradition


Foreword & Acknowledgement

Before the White Man/Coming of the First Settlers

DeMotte Grows into a Town

Early Transportation & Farming

The First Schools

Dredging of the Grand Kankakee Marsh

Leonard Swart (Interview)

Casper Belstra (Interview)

Northern Indiana Land Company

The Halleck Telephone Company

DeMotte Mercantile Company

DeMotte Library Grows

Cheever's Garage

Eighty Years of Community Banking

Fairchild & Tanner History

Earl Schwanke Article

Keener Township Fire Department

(Art) Lageveen Looks Back

Fire Almost Destroys DeMotte in 1936

Kankakee Valley Post-News

Asparagus & Truck Farming

Businessmen's Association

Lageveen Remembers Incorporation

Belstra Remembers When...

Kankakee Valley Schools

DeMotte Elementary School

(DeMotte) Christian School

Mark L. DeMotte

Charlie Halleck

Walter Roorda, State Representative


Van Keppel Construction Company

Fire Destroys Main Building at Kaper's

The Hamstra Group

DeMotte Historical Society

Tysen's Family Food Center

Belstra Milling

The Fire of 1992

United Methodist Church

DeMotte Christian Church

Community Bible Church

Calvary Assembly of God

Bethel Christian Reformed Church

First Christian Reformed Church

Faith Lutheran Church

St. Cecilia Catholic Church

United Pentecostal

First Reformed Church

American Reformed Church

DeMotte Town Court

Incorporation of DeMotte

August 10 Incorporation Hearing

September 1965 Incorporation

First Town Board Election

The First Town Board

DeMotte Town Council 1969-1997

DeMotte Town Hall

DeMotte Park Board

Wastewater Treatment Begins

DeMotte Chamber of Commerce

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Businessmen's Association


By the time the 1930's rolled around, DeMotte had grown to the point that the merchants in town decided to organize the DeMotte Businessmen's Association. There were problems with break-ins, (the county sheriff was 25 miles away), keeping a fire department was expensive and there were no street lights in town.

The businessmen were not only feeling the crunch of the 'Great Depression', they were coping as best they could with the effects of the 1936 fire.

In a meeting on February 15, 1937, just 10 months after the fire it was noted in the minutes, that Keener Township Trustee Simon Groet and his advisory board had rejected the association's request for the township to help pay for the fire equipment. The Association wrote Groet the following letter: "At the last meeting of the DeMotte Businessmen's Association, word was received by the committee that our request for support from the township to help maintain the local fire fighting equipment could not be granted. We understand that the request could not be granted because of the nature of the request being in conflict with the law governing the appropriating of township funds. This being the case, we will be glad to have the board reconsider this request, with this provision, that the appropriating of the money for this purpose be done in whatever manner the board sees fit to do."

The businessmen resolved to continue the fire department and buy insurance on the firemen immediately. They decided to borrow $100 for six months to pay the bills and purchase insurance from Merle Curtin, (as the minutes note), "at once".

Downtown DeMotte about 1930.In the late 1930's, Keener Township finally took over the fire department. By law, they were required to own the department before they could appropriate funds in the budget for operating expenses. Since DeMotte was not incorporated, the town was therefore not a legal taxing entity. Funds were available only through the township and county, but those entities were required to own what they appropriated funds for.

For several years the fire truck was kept behind Cheever's Garage. A siren was mounted on a pole and when a fire call came in, the telephone operator blew the whistle. Not only the volunteer firemen, but everybody in town knew there was a fire. The whistle also blew at noon each day and was used in case of an emergency, such as a tornado warning.

LaVern Blankenbaker said the siren was located near his home. "Every time the whistle blew," Vern said, "Jean and I came up for air."

The association had no budget for police protection before the town was incorporated. They tried having the Jasper County Sheriff appoint a "deputy' for DeMotte, they tried hiring a night watchman, nothing seemed to work for long.

In an April 16, 1937 letter to Jasper County Sheriff Vern Michals, it was stated, "There has been considerable reckless driving around town lately, and we think that the presence of a deputy in town would be a big help...", signed, John Terborg, Wm. J. Swart, and Otto DeYoung, Jr.

During the late 1930's and 1940's the businessmen tried a variety of ways to promote their businesses. They had a 'gift night', free shows, band concerts. They discussed providing entertainment for the townspeople such as having ball diamonds and horseshoes. They discussed a 'youth center'.

During World War II rationing was instituted by the U.S.. Government. In Jasper County there was a Ration Board appointed which controlled rationing in the county. You were given books with stamps. If you bought sugar, a stamp was required, if you bought gasoline, it required a stamp, if you bought a pair of shoes, they required a stamp, and so on through a long list of rationed items. The stamps were allotted for each person in the household.

In March 1943, the Businessmen's Association sent a committee consisting of "Toots" Cheever, O.P Rowen, Art Lageveen, Sr., Adam DeHaan and John Broertjes to approach the ration board about setting up a local board in DeMotte.

The trip was successful, and Dorothy Van Dam was hired to run the local board. She was hired and paid by the DeMotte businessmen even though the board was still under the jurisdiction of the county. In July, 1943, it was decided to give up the local board because of lack of funds and to stop the weekly band concerts for the same reason.


Apparently, the local citizenry was not pleased over the decision to do away with the local ration board. Each member of the Businessmen's Association was assessed $3 and containers were put out for people to contribute to keeping the board in DeMotte. Not only was the board kept in DeMotte, but Dorothy Van Dam's wages were raised from $10 a week to $12 weekly. In 1943 there were 1,647 ration books in Keener Township.

Art Lageveen, Jr. and his mother Josina in Lageveens Department Store in 1960In 1943, the businessmen began to actively seek a medical doctor for the community. By 1946, Dr. Martin O'Neill was serving the health needs of the community.

The businessmen met rather sporadically during some years. A meeting was called for January 7, 1946 to hear Attorney John Hopkins from Rensselaer, discuss incorporation with the group. The discussion proceeded a little further than it ever had before. O.P Rowen made a motion to have a boundary investigating committee appointed from among their members. The committee consisted of Neil Kaper, Wm. Swart, Otto DeYoung, Sr., and Bruce Todd.

On April 22, 1946, the men decided to change the name of the Businessmen's Association to the DeMotte Commercial Club. The minutes duly note that the club would meet once each month on the first Monday, and they would have membership cards made, 'pocketbook size'.

John Hopkins was again present to discuss incorporation but the minutes do not reflect the discussion on the subject.

On May 6, 1946 the club held their first meeting under their new name. Al Ewart, who had been appointed chairman of the incorporation boundaries committee, outlined the proposed boundaries to be incorporated. He stated that those boundaries must be surveyed prior to incorporation. Ralph DeKock, Alvin Johnson and Ralph Myers were appointed to locate a licensed surveyor to do the job. By the end of 1946 talk of incorporation had cooled.

On June 30, 1947 the club voted to suspend meetings and collecting dues for six months. That was the final meeting of the DeMotte Commercial Club.

In 1954, meetings of the businessmen were resurrected but they voted to once again be known as the DeMotte Businessmen's Association. The meetings were not scheduled regularly, but were to be called meetings, not lasting more than one hour.

Main Street DeMotte around 1938

At the first meeting, the subject of securing a full-time doctor for DeMotte was discussed. A sewer project for the town was also mentioned.

Meetings during the years of 1954 to 1959 appear to be rather sporadic, although during the years a fire house and the DeMotte Clinic located on 10th Street SW were added to the town.

At the March 1, 1960 meeting, incorporation again reared its head. A motion was made by Albert K. (Bud) Belstra and seconded by Fern Traster for the Businessmen's Association to give their support and underwrite the incorporation of DeMotte. The motion carried unanimously. At the October 1 meeting that same year, Belstra again made a motion that "the committee on incorporation be reactivated and find what is needed to complete incorporation, and circulate petitions so that a majority of people can sign." The committee was also ordered to find out the objections people had to the incorporation and try to rectify them.

During the next five years incorporation was on everyone's mind and in 1965 the Jasper County Commissioners were petitioned to pass an ordinance to incorporate DeMotte.


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Historical and Community Content

NEW!! DeMotte, Indiana History (1997)

New project: American Life Histories, Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
      (This will be an ongoing project with entries added frequently.)

Churches in DeMotte, Indiana

City Methodist - Gary's Sacred Ruin
     Selections from 1967 City Methodist Church Directory (January 2004)
     Historic Gary Church Set for Wrecking Ball (June, 2005)
     Aerial Photos of City Methodist (August, 2005)

Photographs of Historic Places in Jasper County, Indiana
     Jasper County Courthouse  (February, 2002)
     Rensselaer Carnegie Library (February, 2002)
     St. Joseph Indian Normal School (Drexel Hall) (February, 2002)
     Independence Methodist Church (October, 2002)
     Fountain Park Chautauqua (October, 2002)
     Remington Water Tower (February, 2005)

Memorial to Victims of Flight 4184 (February, 2002)

Lake Michigan Vistas (May, 2002)

Door Prairie Auto Museum (LaPorte, Indiana) (September, 2002)

Northwest Indiana District Church of the Nazarene former Campground (San Pierre, Lomax Station)
     Aerial Photos of former Campground (August, 2005)

Who's Who In the District (Northern Indiana Church of the Nazarene, 1939-40)

Nazarene Album (Northern Indiana District Church of the Nazarene, 1934)

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